Mayo by-election, 2018

Cause of by-election
Sitting Centre Alliance MP Rebekha Sharkie resign on May 11, 2018, due to her being a dual citizen at the time of nomination for the 2016 election, after the High Court clarified the constitutional requirements on May 9, 2018.

Margin CA 5.0%

Parts of South Australia to the south and east of Adelaide. Mayo covers the Adelaide Hills and the coast of South Australia from Lake Alexandrina to the southern edge of Adelaide, as well as Kangaroo Island.


Mayo was first created in 1984 as part of the expansion of the House of Representatives. The seat has always been held by the Liberal Party, although it has always been a high-profile target for minor parties.

The seat was won in 1984 by Alexander Downer, son of former cabinet minister Alec Downer and grandson of former premier Sir John Downer. He retained the seat safely in 1987 but was challenged by the Democrats in 1990, with the minor party polling over 20%. Downer retained the seat with a 6% margin.

A redistribution and a fall in the Democrats vote saw him retain the seat easily in 1993 and 1996. In 1998, the Democrats ran John Schumann, best known as lead singer of the band Redgum. Schumann achieved over 22% of the primary vote and reduced Downer’s two-party margin to 1.7%, the closest the Democrats ever came to winning a House of Representatives seat.

Another favourable redistribution in 2001 helped Downer win re-election, and he was untroubled at the 2004 and 2007 elections. Downer had served a disastrous year as Leader of the Opposition from 1994 to 1995 and served as Foreign Minister for the entirety of the Howard government from 1996 until 2007. After the defeat of the Howard government in 2007, Downer moved to the backbench and retired in 2008 to serve as United Nations envoy to Cyprus.

The ensuing by-election was contested between Liberal candidate Jamie Briggs and Greens candidate Lynton Vonow, as the ALP did not stand a candidate. The Greens polled 21%, and the Liberal vote dropped to 40%. After preferences, Briggs won 53% of the vote, and retained the seat by a slim margin.

Jamie Briggs was re-elected in 2010 and 2013.

Briggs lost Mayo in 2016 to Nick Xenophon Team candidate Rebekha Sharkie.


  • Tracy-Lee Cane (Christian Democratic Party)
  • Kelsie Harfouche (People’s Party)
  • Major Sumner (Greens)
  • Georgina Downer (Liberal)
  • Rebekha Sharkie (Centre Alliance)
  • Stephen Humble (Liberal Democrats)
  • Reg Coutts (Labor)

This is a difficult seat to predict. Sharkie should benefit from incumbency, but the circumstances of the by-election are unusual. We also don’t know what impact the departure of Nick Xenophon and the change in the party name to Centre Alliance could have on Sharkie’s support.

2016 result

Candidate Party Votes % Swing
Jamie Briggs Liberal 35,915 37.8 -16.1
Rebekha Sharkie Nick Xenophon Team 33,158 34.9 +34.9
Glen Dallimore Labor 12,859 13.5 -7.6
Nathan Daniell Greens 7,661 8.1 -6.1
Bruce Hicks Family First 4,375 4.6 -2.5
Luke Dzivinski Liberal Democrats 1,148 1.2 +1.2
Informal 2,828 2.9

2016 two-candidate-preferred result

Candidate Party Votes %
Rebekha Sharkie Nick Xenophon Team 52,283 55.0
Jamie Briggs Liberal 42,833 45.0

2016 two-party-preferred result

Candidate Party Votes % Swing
Jamie Briggs Liberal 52,650 55.4 -7.2
Glen Dallimore Labor 42,466 44.6 +7.2

Booth breakdown

Booths have been divided into five areas, based on local government boundaries. three groups cover all of the polling booths in a single council area: Kangaroo Island, Mount Barker and Onkaparinga.

Polling places in the Adelaide Hills and Barossa council areas have been grouped as “Adelaide Hills”, while those in Alexandrina, Victor Harbour and Yankalilla council areas have been grouped together as ‘South’.

Over one-third of ordinary votes were cast in the Adelaide Hills, with just under a third cast in the south of the seat.

The Nick Xenophon Team won a majority of the two-candidate-preferred vote in all areas, ranging from 51.1% on Kangaroo Island to 59.6% in Mount Barker.

Labor came third, with a primary vote ranging from 10.9% in the Adelaide Hills to 16.6% in Onkaparinga.

Voter group ALP prim % NXT 2CP % Total votes % of votes
Adelaide Hills 10.9 56.2 23,443 24.6
South 14.3 54.4 19,508 20.5
Mount Barker 14.2 59.6 12,171 12.8
Onkaparinga 16.6 54.0 8,783 9.2
Kangaroo Island 11.0 51.1 2,126 2.2
Other votes 15.0 53.0 18,583 19.5
Pre-poll 12.4 52.9 10,502 11.0

Election results in Mayo at the 2016 federal election
Toggle between two-candidate-preferred (NXT vs Liberal) votes and Labor primary votes.

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  1. Georgina Downer will nominate to become the Mayo Liberal Candidate- according to the local Adelaide Hills newspaper, A Downer dynasty ?

  2. No X, circumstnaces of the by election (another election after a drawn out state campaign) – this should be an easy pick up for the Libs. But …. this is a seat with no propensity to swing to Labor, but a willingness to kick the Libs in the knees. Sharkhie in 2016, and John Schumann in 1998 have done so. A strong local independent might manage it now.

    Lib preselection could be messy: while Downer has been announced as anointed in the national papers, locals will probably expect a proper pre-selection. And might wonder, apart from her name, what connection Georgina (Melbourne Uni and LSE graduate, married to a Queenslander, ex DFAT and IPA staffer) has to the electorate

  3. Wonder if she is glad she lost out to Tim Wilson for Goldstein ? She will be 3rd generation, this is probably a good thing, as she would have grown up with the job..

  4. 4th generation -Sir John Downer was her grandaddy -The Downer dynasty continues,’Blue Blood’.Born to Rule.The Greens also gave the liberals a shake up in the last by-election

  5. If Downer gets in, I think she’d be a great MP. She may have moved for uni and work, but she still grew up in the electorate, and has a first hand knowledge of the area. Sharkie will be seen to have cheated the electorate, and will be thrown out. Downer will do a cracking job! She’s the best candidate for the job, although the competition leaves much to be desired.

  6. The Adelaide Hills area used to look like an emerging Greens area, but the last 2 elections (federal and state) have put that to bed. This seat could go either way but I expect the liberals to campaign very hard so they can secure at least one win for the evening

  7. I’ve been told Sharkie has been an attentive MP, but Downer being a recognized name, the Xenephon factor wearing off (after an atrocious performance at the recent state election and the loss of a senate seat) and the fact this seat has flirted with 3rd parties in the past but never stuck (Democrats came close in ’98, The Greens came within 3% in 2008), I can only see Mayo going back towards the LP.

  8. “Sitting Centre Alliance MP Rebekha Sharkie is expected to resign due to him being a dual citizen”

    “She” not “him” has resigned. This needs updating.

  9. Think it is 5th generation……Alex Downer before those others
    would think the vote will be close….

  10. I try to get a feel for elections through (social) media monitoring, especially the comments on conservative news sites.

    It’s looking to me like Liberals made a huge mistake with their preselection. The last name might mean something but so does the fact she’s from the dreaded “Eastern States” (a common political punching bag in SA). Predicting a Sharkie retain now.

  11. John
    After 20 years of going bi- monthly to Adelaide for sales trips for a week, i never encountered that phenomenon . In ” Queensland” – all the time. Embarrassingly (for them because who wants to be compared with QLD parochialism !) also Victoria. It existed certainly in WA, but they weren’t so stupid, or arrogant to vocalise it.

    S Australians, are like NSWelshmen – they consider themselves as Australians – shock HORROR. ! Federation happened 116 years ago, & there are still some Australians who have failed “to grow up” !!.

  12. Labor and the Greens are running candidates and are directing preferences to ‘Centre Alliance’ but I’m wondering the name changes and declining novelty of Xenophon’s party will hurt Rebekha Sharkie chances.

    Minor parties such as Palmer United Party, Australian Democrats and One Nation from 1998 show voters can be unforgiving if there is a hint of destabilization or a view the wheels are coming off.

    The Liberals were hurt last election for Mayo’s dislike of Jamie Briggs so there may be a correction in their vote this time.

    You would think the Libs would be favorites. But Sharkie working the electorate and the fact the Turnbull government is not exactly warming to voters stops the Liberals being are shoe in.

  13. Unless there’s polling suggesting otherwise, I would’ve thought Sharkie has a decent chance of retaining this. I would’ve thought she has gained a reasonable personal profile so the party name shouldn’t matter so much. You’d think she’d essentially have the profile of an independent MP. She beat a high profile sitting MP and minister, and by a reasonable margin. It’s history and geography both make it a naturally strong seat for minor party/indie candidates, and minor party/indie candidates usually do better at by-elections than general elections, which should counter the potential negative impact of the cause of the by-election. I’m not saying she should be favourite to win, but a 50/50 chance I would’ve thought seems reasonable. Bookies giving her much less chance than that.

  14. Nick C
    You missed the part about Briggs being a moron. Sharkie didn’t have much to contend with. This time she will.

  15. Wow, great poll (ReachTEL, commissioned by an anti-Liberal group presumably) out for Sharkie.

    Sharkie CA 41.1 (+6.2 since election) Downer LIB 35.5 (-2.3) GRN 11.1 (+3.0) ALP 8.2 (-5.3) Other 4.2 (-1.6)

    2PP 58 CA over 42 LIB

  16. Reg Coutts defeated Alice Dawkins for Labor Preselection. Labor could possibly drop to 4th, with Greens coming 4th with Labor running a low profile candidate.

  17. Reg Coutts defeated Alice Dawkins for Labor Preselection. Labor could possibly drop to 4th, with Greens coming 3rd with Labor running a low profile candidate.

  18. ReachTel poll from last Thursday night has Rebekha Sharkie of 62% TPP, against 38% for Georgina Downer. This indicates a swing of 4% against Georgina Downer & the Liberal Party since the previous polls…
    I suspect that the vote of the LIberal Party Council to support the privatisation of the ABC is leading to long time rusted on Liberal party supporters to vote for Rebekha Sharkie here in Mayo.

  19. Guess Daddy could get Georgina a Chevening Scholarship with a Third Class Honours undergraduate degree but can’t get her into Parliament.

  20. I’m going to retract my previous prediction, there is a massive movement against Downer it appears, I’d now expect an easy Sharkie retain.

  21. Downer seems like an odd choice to compete against Sharkie. She’s basically the anti-independent candidate: parachuted into the seat because she was related to a former member and really gives the impression she’ll just parrot the party lines. That doesn’t seem like a very good alternative to a high-profile crossbencher with a reputation for being in-touch with the electorate.

    The Centre Alliance may have been built around Nick Xenophon, but I think it actually has potential to become a long-term force in politics. I don’t agree with every decision they’ve made, but true to their name they’ve managed to be a mostly pragmatic, centrist political party without undue influence from certain external organisations. Australian politics could definitely use a bit more of that.

  22. Some interesting negative aspect of the Georgina Downer campaign have emerged
    1; Any negative or serious comments or questions being posed on her campaign facebook page are being deleted and the people posting them blocked from making any further comments. I would expect troll comments or abusive remarks to be deleted ..But this goes far beyond that. It is a serious breech of democratic ethics.And what does it say about her as a future MP ?
    2: Meanwhile Rebekha Sharkie’s facebook page allows an open discussion with critical comments staying up and hardly anyone blocked.

    3There is an excellent facebook page called Mayo for Mayo where the issues which are important to Mayo residents are being openly expressed. The majority feeling is very positive towards Rebekha Sharkie

  23. One thing I’ve learn’t having been brought up in this electorate is that it is a Liberal safe seat. Alexander Downer was always donating flags to old peoples home of which there is an abundance in the electorate – it put him in good stead at each election. The previous Labor government tried to change the flavour with unfettered housing developments but I feel to no avail. Rebekha Sharkie pulled it off last time and may well again but be clear the Liberals are the benchmark here.

  24. Mayo was a Liberal seat.The Downer dynasty has met its match.The ‘oldies’that voted Downer are dead .Sharkie will win easily and Mayo will remain a marginal seat for years to come The 2016 election was ‘Bye bye Briggsy’ and now we have “Down with Downer”despite the passing parade of Federal and State minister visiting regularly bringing
    gifts and promises daily

  25. I hope Sharkie wins as Downer is from a family of suspect parliamentarians.

    Downers father helped got Australia involved in two unnecessary murderous wars this century and was involved in the bugging of the East Timor Cabinet Room to spy on that poor war torn countries oil and gas exploration discussions.

    Like father like daughter in my opinion and voters don’t need dynasties just ask the Clinton’s and Bush’s in the USA. Punish the daughter for her fathers sins.

    Downer recently tried out for Goldstein Vic and was rejected but the organised and mostly wealthy branch members for the energetic Tim Wilson.

  26. How to vote cards are out, and there are some very bizarre things.

    Labor and Greens both preferenced Centre Alliance over each other.

    Liberals actually preferenced the Greens over Sharkie and Labor; the card is a donkey vote other than for Downer.

    The Greens have a high profile candidate and seem to be making a genuine effort in the seat and Downer is doing very badly in the polls. However she’s not doing so badly that the Greens might overtake her (the reachtel that had her losing 62-38 was off a 37% primary for Downer). There’s especially no chance without Labor’s preferences, and Labor voters are reliable HTV followers.

    I’m expecting Sharkie to win the primary vote, blowing out to an enormous lead after preferences. Greens will overtake Labor but that won’t amount to much.

  27. @John, I am looking forward to Rebekha Sharkie again being the MP for Mayo. But the Victorian Liberal party blow in is making a determined effort in Mayo to regain Mayo & turn it back into a Downer pocket borough despite the predictions by all 3 polls of a major Liberal Party loss.

    Estimated Liberal party campaign spend is upwards of $1,000,000 with Young Liberals from all over being deployed at pre-poll booths and shopping malls already. Estimated total of government spending promises, is about $13,500,000.

    I have never known such a huge effort by a governing party for a ‘simple’ by-election when it already has a majority in the House & which if it won would be ‘won’ for a very short time – maybe 8-9 months.

    Very very odd behaviour indeed by the Liberal Party.

  28. @Seedy

    I thought Liberals had essentially pulled out of Mayo and were focusing on Braddon and Longman. There goes my theory.

    Maybe their internal polls are better than the 3 polls that have come out. They would want to dislodge Sharkie before she becomes entrenched like many other independents, but if the polls are anything to go by, it’s too late.

  29. Seedy, it’s a free-throw. The Liberals certainly can’t devote these resources and specificity of policies to 1 seat in a general election.

    If the Liberals win then Mayo returns to being a safe seat the Liberals barely have to think about. If Sharkie wins the Liberals will never oust her until she retires (whether CA collapses or not Sharkie could stand and win as an independent).

    It was the same deal with Labor in Batman earlier this year, that by-election ended up being a godsend for Labor. Feeney was going to lose it at the next election and it then would never have made sense for Labor to waste resources fighting for it at a general election (like it isn’t worth it for Labor to try to oust Adam Bandt or Andrew Wilkie) but because they could spend a month with sole focus, dumping millions of dollars, and spruiking the watertight left-wingness of their candidate they may have made it more like a Grayndler rather than the Melbourne copy they dreaded.

  30. Seedy
    Nice to hear what is happening on the ground. LNP have been bringing in workers from Gold Coast and Dalby to Longman pre poll. Certainly the LNP think they need more on a booth than I think they need. How about their management techniques and Sharkie’s booth management.
    All others how about reports of ground activity at micro level

  31. Bennee I don’t think major parties ever “give up”.

    Labor did try to win back Melbourne in 2013 at least and I’m not ruling out a challenge in 2019.

    Katter has an extremely strong hold on Kennedy but was run extremely close in 2013. Wilkie is kept safe in his seat by Labor and Greens preferencing him over each other and Liberals preferencing him over Labor – that could all change. McGowan hasn’t been tested against a Liberal candidate that isn’t Sophie Mirabella.

    All that to say that I don’t think it’s “now or never” for the Liberals.

  32. It’s not that major parties “give up” they play the long game and spend resources elsewhere until an opportunity is presented.

    When independents and minor parties win a lower house seat twice in a row they tend to hold it until the member retires. When someone gets name recognition and incumbency advantage and isn’t connected at the hip to an unpopular prime minister to be washed out with they are close to impregnable. Labor and Liberal usually have to spend all their media minutes slamming each other to try and win the national 2PP, single members are far too small a target.

    Labor tried to win back Melbourne in 2013 with Liberal preferences directions changing in their favour compared to 2010 and with the Greens brand nationally on a massive wain and Labor still got defeated soundly. They almost came 3rd… In 2016 Labor did come 3rd… Labor trying to remove Bandt in 2019 would be utter folly even if the Greens have an implosion, his own brand is enough to survive as in 2013.

    Wilkie primaried 44.07% in 2016, 2nd place was Labor with 23%… Preferences/HTV cards don’t matter in Clarke (née Denison). Perhaps the Labor party is dumb enough to have a go at Wilkie if the Liberals preference Labor, but imo that would be a trap, they would be far better off spending Tassie resources holding/winning Braddon and Lyons and if there is left over cash ship it to mainland marginals.

    Katter’s woeful 2013 result I’m not certain about. I guess there was a strong “boo minority government” campaign from the Coalition which spills over onto Katter (even though he didn’t give Gillard supply or a vote on any relevant bill I can remember)?

  33. Georgina Downer has failed to establish her “Local ” credentials against Rebekha Sharkie in this campaign so far despite claims that she now has her own home in Mayo not South Yarra in Melbourne. ( Remember she actually arrived in Mid May as the endorsed Liberal Candidate. )

    So in the past 2 days Georgina Downer has shifted gears and is now campaigning on ‘national’ issues such as Border Protection and GetUp’s campaign to save the ABC .

    Neither issue has been at all prominent in the thinking of Mayo voters to this point. So this change in tactic has been a bit of a surprise. I assume the city based Liberal machine has driven this change because of the failure of her “I’m a Mayo local’ campaign.

    But Mayo is still mostly a regional seat of small towns and country people. A place where local loyalties are important.

    That’s why the overwhelming focus has been on what the candidates can do to “Make Mayo better”. Georgina has so far ‘arranged’ with her mates in the Liberal government to have $13,600,000 spent here on various desperately needed infrastructure projects.

    I think Downer was hoping this would win votes. Instead it has awakened in Mayo voters the benefits of NOT being a safe Liberal seat. Of being marginal; of being represented by an independent like Rebekha Sharkie.

    It’s also awakened an anger at being neglected for decades by the previous Liberal members.

  34. Until recently Georgina Downer was on the Administrative Committee of the Victoria Division of the Liberal Party however was not re elected this year.

    Not sure why not but perhaps because of the factional wars involving the religious right and the moderates or the Mayo option was being considered by she and the SA Liberals after the Jamie Briggs fiasco. Briggs was once a grovelling staffer in former PM Howard’s office.

  35. I checked out Downer early history and one reference says she was born in Belgium and another says Great Britain. So which is it, and are there any dual citizenship issues?

  36. Belgium would be no worries, Belgium doesn’t allow dual citizenship (so Mathias Cormann never had to renounce,he automatically lost citizenship when he got Australian citizenship).

    Downer says she renounced UK citizenship last year, but I don’t believe she has published documentation.

  37. Thanks Bennee – Australia should adopt the Belgium model on citizenship as you cant be loyal to two countries in my view.

  38. So was Downer a dual UK/Australian citizen when she tried out unsuccessfully for Goldstein Vic a few years ago I wonder? Or was she just a pom back then which would also exclude her from the federal parliament if pre-selected and elected back then.

  39. Georgina Downer was born in Brussels because her dad, Alexander Downer was an Australian diplomat there in 1979. Under Belgium’s citizenship law she is not a citizen. But as her mum was ( is ? ) a UK citizen, Georgina Downer has UK citizenship until September 2017 when she renounced it.

    So yes she was ( under the ‘Wise wizards’ latest interpretation – Is it number 5 or 6 ? – of the constitution) she was a dual citizen when she tried for Goldstein in 2016. And if elected would have been forced to resign like Rebekha Sharkie in May.

    Having tried to change the focus of the Mayo by-election towards the GetUp campaign to save the ABC, and ‘Borders’ it was interesting to watch the replies she got on her Fcaebook page on these issues.. Overwhelmingly the comments in support of GD came from people outside Mayo.but especially interstate and even 3-4 from overseas !
    On the issue of GetUp campaign to save the ABC, this was especially true. There were also lots of comments in support of the ABC from all over Australia..

    But interestingly not many folk from Mayo got involved on either side…I suspect that mayo folk strongly support funding the Publicly owned ABC, but it is not a big issue in this election.

  40. I had a letter published in the Financial Review on the Downer citizenship matter today (Monday, 23 Jul 18).

  41. In Fairfax papers today daddy Downer is upset trolls are picking on his little girl on facebook. Another reason to close all facebook accounts. I have never had one nor twitter or any other anti social media sites..

    This is the war criminal as foreign minister that sent the ADF to Afghanistan and got 40 of them killed for nothing and hundreds wounded/maimed for nothing.

  42. Very good result for Sharkie, she should have no problem holding on now, though there could be a swing to Georgina Downer at the next election as she will presumably be campaigning every day from now until next July.


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